Ah... the issue of tipping. This is a topic that confuses a lot of people, so I thought it was important to address it. Are you supposed to tip a massage therapist? If so, how much? Well, it all depends on the type of massage business you are going to. In this post, I will break down different types of massage establishments, and what in my opinion is the proper tipping protocol.
If you get a massage at a spa or resort, it is customary to tip your massage therapist. Although you may pay a great deal for your massage, there is a good chance that the massage therapist sees less than 40% of the money from it. Most of these places pay their therapists on commission meaning that on a slow day where the therapist only has 1 or 2 clients, they may do an entire day's work and only see about $50. Many spas have their massage therapists cleaning and doing laundry when they are not in a session, and they are not paid for it. Please make sure to tip them and tip them well. It is similar to a waitress who gets very little pay and works for tips. The main difference is that while a waitress can handle several tables at once, a massage therapist can only work on one person at a time. While a waitress may wait on 30 tables in an evening, a massage therapist can only work with about 5 clients on a busy day. I would recommend tipping at about 20% unless you got a discount, in which case tip more. More on discounts below.
If you are seeing a massage therapist at a chiropractic office, it is customary not to tip. Generally these therapists are making a decent salary, and because you wouldn't tip anyone else at the office, it is a good idea to refrain from tipping the MT. Many of these offices even have rules against tipping.
If you are seeing a massage therapist who is in private practice, it is really up to you whether or not you want to leave a tip. In a private practice, the therapist is receiving the entire amount paid for the massage, unlike the MTs working in a spa. Private practice massage therapists have very differing opinions on the topic of tipping. I know some therapists who prefer not to accept tips. On the other hand, I welcome tips but don't ask for them. If someone wants to leave a little extra because they appreciate my work, I thank them and take it as a compliment. If they choose not to tip, I don't mind at all. When it comes to the amount you should tip, it is up to you. I generally say to think about how much the massage costs, and how much you felt it was worth. If you think that it was worth the amount that you paid, don't leave a tip. If you feel like for you, the massage was worth more than you paid for it, leave a little extra.
Note: Please don't leave the tip on the table after the massage (right). Instead, leave it with the therapist.
If you see a massage therapist at an athletic club, it is generally customary to tip your therapist. The compensation is much the same in an athletic club as it is in a spa or resort. The massage therapists work on commission and their compensation is decided with the assumption that they will be making tips. As with a spa, I would recommend tipping about 20%.
A healing center can be set up in different ways. Generally what I have seen is practitioners working for themselves out of a common space. In this kind of setting, much like a private practice, massage therapists are working for themselves, and get to keep the entire fee for the massage. With that in mind, you can choose to tip or not tip just as with a private practice. If you are unsure about compensation, you can ask whether they are working as employees of the establishment or working for themselves out of the space. If they are employees, tip. If not, it is up to you.
A note on using coupons, vouchers, and deals:
If you purchased an online deal through Amazon, Groupon, Living Social, Yelp, Google, or any of the other online deal sites, you should ALWAYS tip regardless of the type of establishment. What's more, you should really tip more than you would had you not received the discount. As a massage therapist who has run deals, I can tell you that you are generally getting about 50% off, which means you are paying $40 instead of $80. Out of that $40, the business is only getting about $20. That means that a service that I would normally get paid $80 for is only bringing in $20. If you are going to a spa, the therapist may only see $5-10 from that massage. Please tip, and tip generously. I am happy to run deals to bring in new clients and raise awareness of my business. It is also a great way to bring in people who wouldn't normally be able to afford a massage. Tipping allows me to be able to continue to offer these deals now and then.
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.